Fixing Memory: The Neuroethics of Detecting, Suppressing and Enhancing Memory

Renseignements sur le financement
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Type de subvention: Subvention catalyseur : éthique
  • Années: 2011/12 à 2012/13
  • Financement total: $98,600
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Sommaire du projet

Memory is central to human identity and functioning, and its impairment is a tragic loss to individuals, their families and their communities. At the same time, the ability to forget is also essential, and disabling illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder may arise from pathological memories. Neuroscience and medicine have made tremendous advances scientifically, therapeutically and technologically in the effort to understand and modulate memory. Emerging drugs and medical technologies are being proposed to treat patients suffering from post-traumatic stress, and to both enhance and to suppress memories in other patient populations. Neuro-imaging techniques are being put forward to improve diagnosis of psychiatric and neurogical disorders, including memory-related disorders. Other techniques are now being studied to detect memory (and so to infer that a person is lying when he or she claims not to remember), and to determine whether a memory is "true" or false. These developments pose critical ethical questions for individuals contemplating undergoing some of these treatments and procedures, given the implications for individual identity and mental health, as well as for the broader community and its collective memories. The physicians who may provide the treatments, the researchers who develop them, and the members of other social institutions who deal with other aspect of patient's lives (e.g. educators, social workers, judges) must determine the ethically acceptable uses of these applications in their own spheres. These ethical questions have particular urgency now because the power to detect and manipulate memory is attracting interest not only in the therapeutic context, but more broadly in society for non-therapeutic applications. How should researchers, physicians and patients navigate the ethical quandaries involved in detecting memories, suppressing memories and enhancing memories?

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